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Orca season underway as tight family unit recently sighted off Campbell River

Bigg’s Orca have delighted people from both on the water via wildlife tours and from the shore
Galiano T019B surfaces off Quadra Island/Campbell River in March 2022. Photo by Heather Baskey

By Heather Baskey

Special to the Mirror

Campbell River is now in full swing Orca season with multiple sightings being reported of the mammal-eating Bigg’s Orcas within our surrounding waters.

From small family groups to large multi-family gatherings (often referred to as T-Parties), the Bigg’s Orca, also known as Transient (identified by the “T” prefix) have delighted people from both on the water via wildlife tours and from the shorelines, including Discovery Pier in Campbell River.

One family in particular has been quite active in Discovery Passage this spring, with its most recent sighting on April 13. This family is a tight unit of four – 67 year “Esperanza” T018 (est. 1955), her presumed daughter, “Nootka (Mooyah)” T019 (est. 1965) and T019’s two sons, “Galiano” T019B (1995) and “Spouter” T019C (2001).

This tight quartet has been viewed several times with other family units this spring in our area. The most recent being on April 13 when they were sighted swimming closely with matriarchal family, the T002Cs*. They were visible with the naked eye from Discovery Pier and travelled north towards Copper Bluffs, Quadra Island, before turning around with the flood tide and returning southbound past the pier and towards Cape Mudge.

At Tyee Spit, several people were on shore watching the large pod in amazement and listening to their palpable “Ka-woof” synchronized surface blows.

*The T002Cs is also a very popular and frequently sighted family off Campbell River and the Discovery Islands. The Mirror published a two-part article on this family by Kaitlin Paquette in September 2021. When T018 and the T019s are present, there is no mistaking this family due to the magnificent presence of T019’s sons, “Galiano” T019B and “Spouter” T019C. These two adult males have incredible presence with their large towering six-foot dorsal fins that command attention. Galiano’s dorsal is so wide in fact, it leans slightly to the left and has a distinct nick one-third of the way from the top.

Spouter, the younger brother, has also come into his own. He is a mature male also with an impressive large dorsal in the shape of a “witch’s hat.” Yet, it is the presence of Galiano that can offer to even the novice observer, a quick identification of what family unit they are watching. He is unmistakable with his power and presence and definitely a fan favourite amongst whale watchers.

It is no doubt that residents and travellers to Campbell River will see more of this iconic family throughout the year, so whether you are on the water with a wildlife tour or standing on the shores of Campbell River; watch out for the magnificence of Galiano and his family who are an integral part of our waterways.

Magnificent Galiano “T019B” stands out from the crowd on April 13, 2022. Photographed from on shore (Tyee Spit) as the multi-family group swims north alongside Quadra Island. Photo by Heather Baskey